Hypocritical Leaders


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While you may not like the term hypocritical as a label that describes your favorite political party, at least for that party it works for them. They say one thing and hold others accountable and look the other way when their own members spike the ball. Yet at least in politics it is seen as part of the game. Politicians are always seen as playing to an audience they need for votes instead of doing the right thing for their country.

Yet this blog has spent a lot of words over the years talking about leaders in the workplace. And while you may want to point the finger at a politician for being hypocritical, the problem exists in every industry and way too many of our corporate leaders. People seen as walking a different talk are seen as hypocrites too!

I witnessed first-hand again this week a leader saying one thing and allowing the total opposite to happen. In my world of HR & Training it happens on a regular basis because my peer group is afraid to speak the truth to management. Not always mind you, but those rare individuals that see their roles as problem solvers and not everyone’s friend are hard to find. One such associate told me when she interviewed to be the Director of HR, she warned them that if she “sees a problem, she will be a pain in the ass until it is fixed.” Yes she not only got the job, but she is fulfilling her promise daily!

As I said, this past week I met with a CEO who happens to be an advocate of regular Workplace Harassment training, and since this is in California where we have mandates that include 2-hour versions for managers I was intrigued by the enthusiasm. As is my normal practice before recommending any kind of learning solution, I asked to interview several employees about what they knew about workplace harassment law. My findings were somewhat surprising, and difficult to convey back to the CEO.

I interviewed several people in this small company and it was unanimous that they all knew the laws and procedures well. Except for the training being mandatory again this year, none of those I interviewed really needed to go through the training. However, every single one of them had a story to share about the need for the CEO to learn how NOT to harass. Oh my, what fun I will have telling this person that she is the primary problem.

The hypocritical leader emerged in full force with indignant push back that it was not her actions in question. I spent several minutes making a list of every person she could think of that needed help and she was not on that list. Now no one in their right mind will ever tell this person face to face about her challenges because those that have tried and no longer with the company. So I had both the joy and privilege to share some scenarios and interpretations, being careful to disguise the sources. After an hour I broke through and we agreed to talk again after the training was completed.

While this one situation ended up in the win column, the hypocritical gene (if there really is one) is still very much a part of this CEO’s DNA. Until she is able to point to blame in the right direction, I am afraid that working with her will always come with a challenge to those that have that “pleasure.”